In South Carolina, it used to be that conviction of a sex offense meant a life sentence on the sex offender registry. The person’s name was added to a sex offender list for the rest of their life. It limited the offender’s job opportunities and carried a dark social stigma forever.
But that changed in 2022. Governor Henry McMaster signed an amendment to South Carolina’s sex offender laws. The changes have given new hope to convicted sex offenders who are rehabilitated and wanting a fresh start.
Changes to South Carolina Sex Offender Registry Laws
Now, sex offenders can petition to have their name removed from the sex offender registry. Following a period of time, the offender may show compliance with a series of requirements. If the petition is complete and successful, their name is removed from the public list.
Lawyers for sex offender registry removal
If you are seeking to have your name removed from the South Carolina sex offender registry, we invite you to contact our law firm for a confidential consultation. We are currently accepting cases helping individuals assert their rights and petition to have their name removed from the public registry. Contact us to see if you qualify and start your case.
Sex Offender Law Changes – New Law in 2022
On May 23, 2022, Governor Henry D. McMaster signed an amendment to the South Carolina sex offender registry law. The law was a response to the South Carolina Supreme Court’s ruling in Powell v. Keel, which gave lawmakers a one-year deadline to enact reforms to the state’s lifetime registry requirements.
What is the new sex offender removal law in South Carolina?
The new sex offender removal law is South Carolina Code § 23-3-462. South Carolina Code § 23-3-462 creates a way for convicted sex offenders to have their name and identifying information removed from the state sex offender registry.
Who qualifies to have their name removed form the South Carolina sex offender registry?
To qualify to have their name removed from the South Carolina sex offender registry, a person must:
- Register for the minimum period of time required by their offense (there are three tiers, based on the severity of the offense)
- Complete all required sex offender treatment programs
- Not have any convictions for failing to register in the past 10 years
- Not have any additional sex offense convictions since placement on the registry
- Pay a filing fee
- File the request for termination of registration requirements with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) or with the general sessions court, depending on the tier of offense
SLED receives and processes the application. They will conduct a fingerprint criminal background check to verify the person has not committed additional offenses. Tier III offenders file directly with the general sessions court to request an order.
The new law makes it possible for a person to have their name removed from the South Carolina sex offender registry. A conviction that places a person on the registry is no longer necessarily a life sentence of inclusion on the list if the person meets a list of requirements and submits their application.
Get legal help now
If an application is denied, the person must wait five years before applying again. That makes it important to make sure that the person qualifies, and that the application is complete and correct. Our lawyers help people apply to have their names removed from the registry. We invite you to work with our trained and experienced team to submit your application.
Powell v. Keel and South Carolina’s Changes to Sex Offender Registration
It was a legal challenge that ultimately resulted in change to South Carolina’s sex offender registry. A person who was on the list decided to bring a legal challenge to the lifetime requirement.
The offender in Powell v. Keel was convicted of arranging to meet a minor for sexual purposes. He was sentenced to two years in prison, one year of probation and lifetime inclusion on the state sex offender registry.
He brought a legal claim seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the registry. He stated that he completed his court-ordered rehabilitation and had not reoffended. He wanted a process to seek removal from the registry and its requirements. He also sought a declaratory judgment that dissemination of the list on the internet is unconstitutional.
The offender said that mandatory lifetime registration violates several laws:
- United States Constitution, Eighth Amendment – prohibits excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishments
- South Carolina Constitution, Article I, § 15 – prohibits excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishments on a state level
- Due Process – A person shall not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process, or without the fair process of law
- Equal Protection – The government must treat all similarly situated people the same way
In the legal challenge, the petitioner said that the lifetime registration requirement was unconstitutional because there was no way for the courts to review it. He pointed out that he completed group therapy and psychiatric treatment. He presented two assessments that found he had a low chance of reoffending. Still, he was left without a recourse to challenge his lifetime placement on the list.
The legal standard for review
The person challenging the law had the burden of proof, to show beyond a reasonable doubt, that the law was unconstitutional. To be valid, the law must have a rational relationship to a legitimate government purpose.
The court said that the old law was unconstitutional because there was no way to assess the individual person’s risk of reoffending. The court said that having every offender on the list, regardless of their risk to reoffend, dilutes the list’s effectiveness.
While the court said that the current state of the law was unconstitutional, the court opinion itself did not create a new law. Instead, the court gave the legislature one year to pass a new law. In turn, the legislature passed the amendment to S.C. Code § 23-3-462 which established a removal procedure for qualifying offenders.
Although the court required the legislature to develop a removal plan for qualifying registrants, they upheld the availability of the list on the internet. They said that the law allows for the transmission of data relating to the list. Although the law didn’t exactly define what that meant, the court looked at legislative intent. They decided that having the sex offender registry on the internet is permitted by law.
Help and Hope for Rehabilitated Offenders
The new South Carolina sex offender registry removal law gives offenders new hope and a process to have their names removed from burdensome and stigmatizing registration requirements. Removal is not automatic; the offender must meet requirements and file a petition.
Lawyers for Sex Offender Registry Petition
If you are seeking to have your name removed from the South Carolina sex offender registry, our lawyers can help. We invite you to meet with us for a free consultation. It is confidential. See if you qualify to have your name removed, what’s involved in the process and how our South Carolina criminal defense lawyers can help.
If you’ve completed your requirements, you deserve a fresh start. Contact us today to learn more and start your case.